Rian Johnson on How Natasha Lyonne and ’Columbo’ Inspired His New Series ‘Poker Face’

“[The show is] conceived as something that has the architecture to keep going,” the “Glass Onion” writer-director said

Rian Johnson / Getty Images

For Rian Johnson, “Poker Face” — his upcoming Peacock series with Natasha Lyonne — is a love letter to the shows he grew up watching, like “Rockford Files,” “Columbo” and “Quantum Leap,” he told journalists at NBC’s Winter Press Tour for the Television Critics Association.

Watching reruns of those classic shows had become a bit of a guilty pleasure for the Oscar-nominated “Glass Onion” writer-director, who explained, “I had no idea what order they were in and that was part of the pleasure of it.”

Alongside those classic series, Johnson had seen Lyonne’s Netflix dramedy “Russian Doll” and made an observation: “The big ingredient I knew I needed for a show like what I just described is a charismatic figure at the heart of it, because ‘Columbo,’ ‘Rockford Files,’ as much as those shows are mysteries, what really brings you back each week is you want to hang out with the main character. They’re really hang-out shows.”

“Poker Face” follows Lyonne’s Charlie Cale as a civilian Benoit Blanc-type who has an extraordinary capability to detect when someone is lying. The show follows her journey on the road with her Plymouth Barracuda, as she encounters strange characters and even stranger crimes she can’t help but solve.

Johnson described the series — whose episodes he characterized as “nearly completely standalone,” barring a connection point between the finale and pilot — as a howcatchem rather than a whodunnit, the latter being a genre he’s come to be known for through “Knives Out” and its sequel.

The project marks Johnson’s first television foray, and the prolific filmmaker-producer said there are “infinite stories to tell” should the series be renewed — but that it’s ultimately a “one step at a time” process. (Lyonne joked that they’re planning exactly 76 seasons.)

“It definitely wasn’t conceived as a limited series; it’s conceived as something that has the architecture to keep going,” he said, adding, “It’s literally a smorgasbord with possibilities of different worlds we can dip into in each episode and whole new mysteries in every single one.”

In addition to Lyonne, “Poker Face” guest stars that are highlighted in a new trailer include Adrien Brody, Benjamin Bratt, Chloë Sevigny, Clea DuVall, Hong Chau, Jameela Jamil, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Judith Light, Leslie Silva, Luis Guzmán, Rhea Perlman, Ron Perlman, Rowan Blanchard, Stephanie Hsu, Tim Blake Nelson, Tim Meadows and many more.

Ram Bergman, Nora Zuckerman, Lila Zuckerman, Nena Rodrigue and Iain B. Macdonal executive produce, with co-executive producers Maya Rudolph and Danielle Renfrew Behrens. The series is a T-Street and MRC Television production.

“Poker Face” premieres with its first four episodes on Jan. 26.